Menstrual Hygiene Day underscores stigma holding women back

A recent report says one third of girls in South Asia say they miss school once a month because of their periods. Suhani Jalota, founder of Mynha Mahila Foundation, speaks with News Stream.

Posted: May 29, 2018 12:39 PM
Updated: May 29, 2018 12:44 PM

They're skipping school, they're excluded from sports and they're shunned from places of worship -- once a month, at least, when they're menstruating.

For many women and girls in India, even talking about periods is taboo, and a lack of access to sanitary products means life comes to a standstill for a few days every month.

The Myna Mahila Foundation is trying to change that. The organization employs 15 local women from Mumbai slums to make sanitary pads, while another 50 women distribute them door to door in the slums. The model means stable employment for the workers and easy, affordable access to pads for people in the community.

Speaking to CNN on Monday, marking Menstrual Hygiene Day, the foundation's co-founder Suhani Jalota listed the many reasons women and girls fail to get such essential items.

"There's a whole bunch of different factors here where women don't have access to these products -- they don't even have knowledge of these products. There is a lot of stigma around it, there's a lack of facilities and infrastructure at schools," she said, explaining that some schools did not have functional toilets.

Girls even drop out of school during puberty because they simply don't have the means to manage their periods.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, gives Myna a boost

Interest in Myna Mahila has grown since Britain's newly married royal couple, Harry, the Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, included the organization on their list of charities to donate to in lieu of wedding gifts.

The Duchess, who has spoken out on feminist issues and women's empowerment, had visited the organization in India, and was photographed in a sari as she met with the women working there.

Her involvement has helped spread awareness of menstrual hygiene across India and given the movement a stamp of approval, Jalota said.

Tackling stigma is a major challenge, particularly when it comes to talking about periods between genders.

"If you were to buy a packet of sanitary napkins today, you have to go to a chemist shop or a medical store, which is manned by men -- male shopkeepers, and there are male bystanders, there are male customers -- and there's this one woman there who's announcing that she wants a packet of pads, implying that she has her period. So the male shopkeeper kind of doesn't even look at her straight," she explained.

Out of shame, many women use traditional rags and wash and dry them discreetly, storing them in damp and unhygienic conditions.

Shame aside, more than 40% of women between the ages of 15 and 24 in India have no access to sanitary products in the first place, according to the India National Family Health Survey.

Jalota said that she and Myna Mahila's co-founders started the organization with the hope of encouraging women to talk about the things they were most afraid to talk about. In fact, the charity's name comes from the "chatty" myna bird.

"We really started this movement around menstrual hygiene first because we feel that it's a very tangible way of tackling empowerment," she said.

She added that they found women in the communities where they worked had powerful voices, but they were being treated as invisible. They wanted to encourage more confidence in women to determine their own lives.

"If women started to consider themselves to be more important, then slowly it would start conversations around domestic violence, and sexual assault and menstrual hygiene, things that women were currently shying away from."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 32437

Reported Deaths: 2030
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9371546
Lake3347170
Cass15867
Allen135366
St. Joseph121834
Hendricks113567
Hamilton112391
Johnson1092104
Elkhart107028
Madison58259
Porter49521
Bartholomew48634
Clark47141
LaPorte41523
Tippecanoe3803
Howard37620
Jackson3681
Delaware35936
Hancock32327
Shelby32121
Floyd31539
Boone29335
Morgan27024
Vanderburgh2532
Montgomery23317
White2288
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19521
Noble19221
Harrison18821
Dubois1852
Henry1709
Greene16824
Warrick16528
Dearborn16421
Monroe16211
Vigo1507
Lawrence14623
Miami1391
Putnam1347
Jennings1284
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1136
Franklin1068
Kosciusko971
Carroll932
Daviess8416
Marshall801
Steuben802
Wayne755
Newton7410
Wabash732
Fayette714
Jasper621
LaGrange622
Washington521
Fulton471
Jay460
Randolph453
Rush452
Jefferson421
Whitley412
Clay411
Pulaski400
Owen341
Sullivan331
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke313
Perry260
Wells260
Huntington262
Knox250
Benton250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford202
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Parke180
Spencer171
Posey160
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0159

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 114306

Reported Deaths: 5083
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook745213455
Lake7845270
DuPage7350347
Kane5947162
Will5279264
Winnebago200152
McHenry147569
St. Clair103573
Kankakee80843
Kendall73619
Rock Island63823
Champaign5807
Madison54457
Boone41016
Sangamon33727
DeKalb3343
Randolph2644
Jackson24210
McLean21513
Out of IL2051
Stephenson1942
Ogle1932
Macon18919
Peoria1888
Clinton17817
Union1437
LaSalle14013
Whiteside13410
Iroquois1314
Coles11912
Warren1130
Unassigned1100
Jefferson10116
Knox940
Monroe9311
Grundy882
McDonough837
Lee761
Tazewell693
Cass680
Henry670
Williamson572
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin431
Perry410
Pulaski410
Montgomery391
Vermilion371
Morgan341
Christian334
Jo Daviess310
Livingston312
Douglas260
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Woodford182
Mason170
Menard170
Mercer160
Shelby161
Bureau151
Hancock150
Carroll142
Franklin120
Piatt120
Schuyler120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Robinson
Broken Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 71°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 68°
Rockville
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 67°
Casey
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 74°
Brazil
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Marshall
Scattered Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 75°
Cold Front Approaching
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events